Thursday, 30 August 2007
Now country readers may well be wondering what this mad city woman is doing getting all excited about a chook laying an egg. Please bear with me and don't laugh too much.
We bought our two little hens at 6 weeks of age in late April and they are now well-loved members of our family. They are gentle, sweet creatures who cluck away quietly and are hand-fed happily by the children and their friends. They wander around the garden each day pecking, scratching and dust-bathing, or resting quietly in the shade. Their worth to us far exceeds their more obvious value as layers, manure providers or weed eaters.
As you can see, the egg is about half the size of an ordinary hen's egg. I can hardly bear the thought of cracking it.
Wednesday, 29 August 2007
Today we are enjoying another warm, sunny, blue-skied day. How intense is the blue of an Australian sky! As long as I live I will never tire of days like this.
I have been fence-painting again today, but have stopped because I have run out of paint. I have discovered that I quite enjoy painting, but do not like the cleaning up afterwards. Painting is a very messy task! I am glad no-one has come to the door today, for I have been dressed in painting garb again; my husband's old trackpants, paint-speckled sneakers, an old shirt, and a grey lab coat. I am looking forward to showering and changing into something more attractive.
In a day of messy activities, my little son and I made caramel fruit scrolls this morning.
Playing with real dough is so much more fun that playing with playdough -- and you can eat what you make.
The scrolls are made from a simple scone dough, rolled out to a rectangle and spread with condensed milk that has been cooked to a caramel. Lastly, you sprinkle the caramel with dried fruit or crushed nuts. You roll the dough up, cut 3 cm slices, turn them spiral-side up, and bake in a hot oven for 20 minutes
Now I am off to have a shower, then to work on some household tasks that have been delayed because of the painting.
I hope you have a great day, wherever you are.
Tuesday, 28 August 2007
We are enjoying the most wonderful, unwintry weather at the moment. It was 26 degrees here yesterday, the second warmest August day ever for Melbourne.
This morning I went for a 6.30 am walk with my next-door neighbour. We do this a couple of times a week and it is a great opportunity to catch up. She has a demanding job and three kids, and I have a fairly easy job running our home business, and four kids. We each have Grade 5 girls and Grade 3 boys at the same school, so are often able to co-ordinate rides to various activities. We organise our schedules during our walks, chat, and pick up fresh bread at the bakery on the way home.
Three or four weeks ago we walked in darkness wearing gloves and thick socks. Today we began in early light and the sun was up when we returned home. All through the walk I admired the blossom trees in people's gardens; glowing, scented masses of pinks, reds and whites that only a couple of weeks ago were bare branches. I wish I had had my camera with me.
Do you ever wish you could imprint a beautiful image on your mind, so that you would never forget it? That is how I felt this morning. I could have stood, staring, for hours.
I have been thinking how planting a tree is a sign of optimism, of faith in the future. It is also an act of generosity. A little sapling is planted and may take many years to flower, bear fruit, provide shade or habitat, yet the belief is there that this will one day happen, even if the planter is not around to benefit.
While the warmth and sunshine we are soaking up are wonderful, we are sorely in need of rain. Melbourne has only had 15 mm (3/5") in August and we really needed good winter rainfalls to fill our water catchments.
Now that the weather is warming up, and the soil drying out, I have returned this plastic toy container to my kitchen sink to provide some extra grey water for the garden. I planted a number of new roses over winter and hope to keep them alive this way.
Finally, here is a picture of a red moon during a total lunar eclipse in 2000. Beautiful, yet almost frightening. No wonder the ancients thought that a blood-red moon was a bad omen, leading to pestilence and ill-fortune.
From 7 pm this evening Australia will experience a total lunar eclipse, which results when the earth passes between the sun and the moon, blocking the sun's light. I am looking forward to taking the children outside to watch it.
Monday, 27 August 2007
My husband prefers cold cereal on weekdays, so he is easy to please. However, my children have been hinting that they would like more choice, at least some of the time. I, too, would like more choice, as I am not really a cereal person.
My father loved hot breakfasts of the kind he remembered from a country childhood. He would often have kippers or sardines on toast during the week, and on the weekend he would sometimes do the traditional Australian fry-up, with lamb or mutton chops, bacon, eggs, tomatoes, sausages and plenty of toast. I can't see myself cooking chops for breakfast; amongst other reasons, lamb is now enormously expensive, and I really couldn't stomach meat first thing. My mother recalls crumbed, fried lamb's brains being served at breakfast during her childhood; I can't see myself preparing them either.
I am keen to try more baked items such as muffins, french toast, pancakes and perhaps even homemade crumpets. The advantage of baked goods is that any leftovers can go in the lunchboxes or be eaten when the ravenous hordes descend at afternoon tea time each day.
Here is a recipe for Hot, Fruity Muffins that I found in an old Marguerite Patten cookbook from around 1960. They are an English-style muffin, very similar to scones in method. They do not have milk in them as the grated apple provides enough moisture.
I made them after breakfast today as a practice run, and my four year old taste tester says they are yummy.
Hot Fruity Muffins
8 oz SR flour
1/2 t mixed spice
3 oz butter or substitute
2 oz sultanas
1 oz sugar
1 medium sized cooking apple, peeled and finely grated
Sift together flour and spice. Rub in butter and add sugar and sultanas. Mix to a soft dough with egg and apple. Turn on to lightly floured board, knead quickly and roll out to 1/2 inch thick; cut into round about 2-3 inches in diameter. Place on well greased baking tray and cook in a hot oven for 15 minutes. Split open, butter and sprinkle with brown sugar. Serve hot.
Saturday, 25 August 2007
I have also not selected green because I have found some new way to be environmentally friendly.
The reason that green is today's colour is because I spent most of the day covered in green paint. I have splashes up and down my arms, in my hair and on my face. The rest of me would be more paint speckled except that my husband loaned me a lab coat to wear over my clothes, which were, in fact, his clothes; old track pants and a tatty T-shirt. Now I know why he insists on keeping some clothes that should never be seen in public: very useful for painting!
In this part of Melbourne most backyards are separated by high pine fences. When we moved into this house the fences were painted dark green. Two, which were falling down, have since been replaced, and for some time we have wanted to paint these the same colour as the third side.
There is an aesthetic reason too for painting the fence. When the fence colour is pale and bright, such as a new pine fence, the garden appears smaller and more boxy. When the fence colour is darker, and especially green that blends with the garden plants, the garden appears larger. As we live in very close proximity to our neighbours, the larger that the garden seems the better!
This weekend is a perfect painting weekend; warm and sunny with the added advantage that, being winter, some of the plants that grow on the fence line are still without leaves.
We only completed half the painting today and I am exhausted. I have new respect for professional painters; painting is really tiring, even when one has the assistance of one's lovely husband and hardworking eldest son.
I also took the opportunity to paint this park bench. It was scrounged in a hard waste collection and has needed a lick of paint for a long time.
In this picture you can see the finished back fence, which matches the adjacent pool fence well. Doesn't that tree fern look nice with the late afternoon sun shining upon it?
Friday, 24 August 2007
So here are some yellow things I found around our home. I hope you enjoy looking at them, and that they add some golden cheer to your day.
Thursday, 23 August 2007
We ate at a local Greek restaurant and both food and company were most enjoyable. Our group was the last to leave; the waiters were making subtle hints like wiping down neighbouring tables and yawning for some time before we finally left.
I donned my red shoes.
And took my red bag. There's nothing like a splash of red to make a girl feel like she could conquer the world.
Wednesday, 22 August 2007
We have two young Japanese plum trees in our front garden, a Santa Rosa and a Satsuma. The Santa Rosa is self-fertile but the Satsuma needs the Santa Rosa to produce fruit. Both trees have white blossoms which are just beginning to come out.
Last summer the fruit fell off in the drought. I am hoping for better this year. I remember my grandmother making plum jam from fruit collected in a park near her house, and I would love to be able to do the same.
The street I grew up in in Sydney was lined with prunus, or ornamental plum, trees. In late winter they delighted the eye with their masses of ruffled, pink blossoms. The trees seemed to hum from all the bees that covered them.
Tuesday, 21 August 2007
And that scene in the BBC miniseries where Mr Darcy (Colin Firth) walks out of the lake with that wet, white shirt. Oh, no, I just swooned ... again.
Seriously though, Elizabeth Bennet is a truly likable heroine. Jane Austen wrote, "I must confess that I think her as delightful a creature as ever appeared in print, and how I shall be able to tolerate those who do not like her at least I do not know..." Elizabeth combines intelligence, wit and beauty and her ultimate marriage to Mr Darcy is shown to be a true match of equal yet complementary minds.
image from www.allposters.com
Monday, 20 August 2007
One of my favourite spots is the corner where sits this wooden chair. I scrounged the chair from
The Denby mug I had my coffee in today is my favourite mug. It has just the right curve to warm winter-cold hands. I made the coffee just the way I like it too; strong, black, unsweetened espresso with a layer of milk-foam on top, but no milk actually mixed with the coffee itself. I sip the hot black coffee through the white foam. Yum!
Sunday, 19 August 2007
Leena is one of the most inspiring speakers I have ever heard. She works amongst the poorest of the poor in India, including AIDS victims and lepers. These people are rejected by their families and left to live without shelter or healthcare. She has opened a home and school for street children and child labourers and she also works with prostitutes, helping them to learn trades to that they can escape from prostitution yet still provide for their families. Another of her achievements is providing medicines, mosquito nets and multi-vitamins to tribal folk who suffer a high incidence of tuberculosis, malaria and mulnutrition.
Leena's grandfather was a pastor who worked with lepers and she grew up learning from him. She said that the Bible passage she lives by is the story of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25:
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me .... Whatever you did for the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.
You can read an article about Leena here.
Here is my recipe for pumpkin soup. You can use any variety of pumpkin. I mostly use butternut, which in some countries is called a squash, not pumpkin; I am not really clear on the distinction.
1 kg (2 lb) pumpkin flesh
1 L (1.5 pints) chicken stock
1 large onion
1 clove garlic
a little oil or butter
salt and pepper to taste
3/4 C cream
sour cream and chives, to serve
Saute diced onion and garlic in butter/oil for a few minutes. Add pumpkin and stock and simmer, covered for 20 minutes. Cool slightly, then puree (I use a stick blender). Add nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste. Stir in cream.
Reheat before serving. Serve with a swirl of sour cream and few diced chives for a garnish.
Saturday, 18 August 2007
There have been a few incidents around here lately where children have been approached by strangers and I did not want to make my children more vulnerable. Our eldest three are at school and we felt it unwise for strangers to be able to identify them and know a great deal about them, unbeknownst to us. To protect my children I have also decided not to use my own image on this blog either.
I have often been sorely tempted to post photos of the children here -- they are totally gorgeous, after all -- but have felt it best not to. Please understand that this is not in any way a criticism of others who post images of their children; if I had begun blogging when they were babies and with me all the time, I probably would have posted pictures too.
Indeed, I love seeing what everyone looks like, and I know that everyone's situation is different. This is a purely personal judgement at this stage in our lives.
I would value input from other, more-experienced bloggers about this issue (I have been blogging less than three months). Are we being too over-cautious? Have any of you, or your family members had negative experiences, such as perhaps teasing or bullying at school, from having appeared on a blog or any other internet forum? Please let me know what you think.
Friday, 17 August 2007
He is off his food but requested a smoothie for lunch, which I happily made for him. Master 4 and I enjoyed it too. We used frozen raspberries, fresh strawberries and bananas, a dollop of fruit yogurt and some milk. Thick, creamy and delicious, and such a pretty shade of pink!
I do my grocery shopping each Saturday, so Friday night's dinner tends to be leftovers or dishes that use up remaining vegetables and fruit. Tonight we are having a quick chicken and vegetable pie made from the remains of last night's roast mixed with leftover gravy, and topped with frozen puff pastry. I also have a lentil curry or dahl simmering on the stove that is using up the remaining fresh vegetables from the refrigerator. I will serve that with some leftover rice that was also in the fridge.
Tonight I am taking my eldest two children to see a school play at my eldest son's school. The two youngest boys will have a quiet evening with their Daddy, and an early night.
I hope you all have a great weekend!
Thursday, 16 August 2007
Wednesday, 15 August 2007
What am I making? I don't know. This will become what it becomes, which in itself is a liberating thought.
I have also finished my second knitted cotton dishcloth, in very different colours to the first one, but still using Anchor Magicline. I posted the pattern here.
Tuesday, 14 August 2007
Becky, over at Sweet Cottage Dreams tagged me for a Nice Matters Award. What a pretty logo.
And Polly from Polly's Patch and Lisa from Altered Cutlery both tagged me for a Frugal Subversive Award. Unfortunately I am having trouble thinking of anyone to tag for this one who hasn't already been tagged! If you would like me to tag you, do let me know.
Monday, 13 August 2007
Yesterday I decided to try making rocket pesto instead. There is ample rocket in the garden, as you can see. I allow the rocket to flower because I don't mind if it self-seeds. I use it often; in salads, as a herb, as a green vegetable, and as a lettuce substitute.
Most recipes call for walnuts in rocket pesto, but I used pecans because I had them in the cupboard.
ready to go
Kate's Rocket and Pecan Pesto
Blend washed rocket and oil in a food processor or blender. Add remaining ingredients and blend until you have the texture you prefer: I like a bit of crunch left in the nuts rather than a smooth puree. You could also use a mortar and pestle to do this.
Serve with pasta, as a dip with flatbreads and crudites, or use as a substitute for basil pesto.
Saturday, 11 August 2007
My best news for the day is that my husband has just returned from Thailand. He has been working with members of the precious stone industry, testing and analysing the purity of sapphires and other stones. A very pleasant surprise was the ruby and gold bracelet that he gave me. Yes, I know, life's tough.
During the week, while the kids were sick, I gave our walk-in pantry a good clean-out. I got rid of anything that had expired and put everything that was in a bag with a twist-tie into a proper container. I have a mixture of Tupperware and Decor containers, and I also recycle glass jars to store things in. I wiped over all the shelves and I got out my label-maker and made cute little labels for everything.
At the back of the pantry I discovered a jar of treacle. Now, I don't know about you, but I don't think I have ever made anything with treacle in it in my life. I adore golden syrup but treacle is too strongly molasses-y for me. I have no idea why I originally bought it.
I scouted through several cookbooks looking for ways to use it up and discovered recipes for treacle pudding and treacle tart. These sound very English boarding school, don't they? Indeed, as one of the kids reliably informed me, treacle pudding is Harry Potter's favourite dessert and Mrs Weasley makes it for him the night before he returns to Hogwarts in The Chamber of Secrets.
I decided to make treacle tart and it was much nicer to eat than I expected. It tastes better than it looks. I won't give you the recipe because I combined two; the one in The Australian Women's Weekly's Sweet Old Fashioned Favourites, and Nigella Lawson's from How to Eat. Nigella, in fact, uses golden syrup instead of treacle and I would probably do so too if I made it again.
Pastry-making is a wonderful activity in which to involve children; they love rolling it out and cutting different shapes. The strips on top of the treacle tart were cut with a plastic playdough cutter, and while they would never pass muster in a restaurant they tasted good to us!